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Third Sunday after Epiphany

Leading up to this Gospel text in Luke, the author writes about Jesus getting baptized by John the Baptist. Soon after, we are told that Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit…was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil[1].” And if we read the story we learn that Jesus was tested three times to prove he was the Son of God and when Jesus didn’t fall for it, the devil went away.

Wicker Park Lutheran Church

Jessica Edelman

January 27, 2019

Leading up to this Gospel text in Luke, the author writes about Jesus getting baptized by John the Baptist. Soon after, we are told that Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit…was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil[1].” And if we read the story we learn that Jesus was tested three times to prove he was the Son of God and when Jesus didn’t fall for it, the devil went away.

So this is where we pick up. In the text it says that Jesus was STILL “filled with the power of the Spirit” and he went to Galilee to teach in the synagogues. Then he went to Nazareth, which was where he grew up. Here again he began to teach.

This Gospel story takes place after Jesus’ baptism. And I am aware that this Gospel story was read after we witnessed Margaret’s baptism just now. Pastor Jason laid his hand on her head and prayed that God would, “Sustain Margaret with the gift of God’s Holy Spirit: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord, the spirit of joy in God’s presence, both now and forever[2].”

I imagine John the Baptist laying his hand on Jesus’ head and telling him the same messages. We trust that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit because we are told that he is in the following two stories about him and his work. The author of Luke needed us to know that something major had changed in that previous story in order for Jesus to more publically start his ministry.

Something major had happened. There was a death. Martin Luther says in the small Catechism, when we observe a baptism or participate in a reminder of our own baptism, “the old [self] in us [is] drowned…[and] a new person daily comes forth and rises from death again[3].” A lot of times we talk about baptism as a washing, and it is and that imagery is beautiful AND baptism is a drowning, a death, from something old that is brought to be made new.

As I was reading this text, I was reminded of someone, who I am going to call Ken. I met Ken when I lived in England. Every Monday throughout the time I lived there I volunteered with a fellowship lunch group that used the church building I worked at. Many times, Ken would bring up something that he was frustrated about in Christianity or in the Bible.

For example one time I remember him being really passionate about how there was no way that Jesus could have been dead for three days if he was killed on Friday and rose on Sunday. The math didn’t add up to him. If you’re sitting out there trying to do the math too then I am going to say to take Pr Jason up on his offer to get a drink and sort it out there. (lol)

Now reading this scripture passage about the start of Jesus’ ministry reminded me of a Monday when Ken sat me down and said, “if Jesus was God, then why didn’t he start his ministry until he was thirty?” I stared at him silent. I didn’t have an answer for him. After realizing I had nothing to offer, he told me, “It’s because he was shown how to baptize and he was just copying John the Baptist.”

At this point I would probably recommend to Ken that he should get a drink with Pr. Jason to sort it out. But reading this passage for today did make me ask Ken’s question again. “Why didn’t Jesus start his ministry until he was thirty?” I don’t think that it was an accident that the author of Luke put the beginning of the Galilean Ministry almost immediately after Jesus’ baptism.

Before Jesus went to teach and heal and perform miracles, “the old [self] in [him] drowned…[and] a new person [came] forth and [rose] from death again[4].” He was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit[5]. This dying allowed for something new to be birthed. For something new to begin.

Jesus died and came back to life “sustain[ed] with the gift of God’s Holy Spirit: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord, the spirit of joy in God’s presence[6].”

For Jesus that looked like going to Galilee and going to Nazareth to proclaim to all that would listen that good news would be brought to the poor. To proclaim that the captives would be released, that the blind would be able to see. To proclaim that the oppressed would go free[7].

[But let me ask you this]

What needs to die in your life so that something new can be birthed?

What needs to die so that something new can begin?

On a personal level, maybe what needs to die in my life is my fear of losing relationships even when they have proven to be toxic. Maybe what needs to die in my life is the amount of time that I spend on my phone and not in community with the people around me. Maybe what needs to die in my life is the lie that I am not enough.

On a national level, maybe what needs to die is the fear of people that live beyond an invisible border. Maybe what needs to die is the amount of federal workers who have been waiting for their paycheck [that number is eight hundred thousand, by the way][8]. Maybe what needs to die is the lie that white supremacy does not exist.

Through baptism, which we can be reminded of daily, “the old [self] in us [is] drowned…[and] a new person daily comes forth and rises from death again[9]. Lean into the death so that you may be made new.

Daily we are rebirthed in God’s love and grace, set free to proclaim good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed[10].


[1] Luke 4: 1-2

[2] WPLC Leader’s Guide 1/27/19

[3] Small Catechism Part 4: 4

[4] Ibid.

[5] Luke 4: 14

[6] WPLC Leader’s Guide 1/27/19

[7] Luke 4:18

[8] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2019/01/11/government-shutdown-paychecks-hold-thousands-federal-workers/2538807002/

[9] Small Catechism Part 4: 4

[10] Luke 4: 18